Chris and Karen

Backpack Down Under

Our blog of our two month trip through Australia and New Zealand.


Jan 9 2016
Some stuff we've seen - Part 4
Posted by Chris

This is the fourth part of my series about some of the different things we've seen in Australia. See Part 3 here. I may post one more after we get back that will include some of our most recent sightings - and who knows what we'll see in the next few days before we leave!

This is an Australian Brush-turkey, and we've seen a fair number of them on the east coast. They're pretty shy though, so my best picture is from far away even though we've been much closer to them.

At one of the caravan parks we stayed at these Plumed Whistling Ducks were everywhere, along with a few of the turkeys above and some Burdekin Ducks which I forgot to get a picture of!

I wish I had gotten a better pic of this Whimbrel who was walking on Alva Beach and that reminded me of the really weird looking Ibises we saw when we first got to Sydney.

For something different, this was our view while driving one stretch of the highway. We could probably smell smoke for about 45 minutes of the drive, and at points the visibility got really bad. At one point though, the sky became such an odd colour we had to take a picture.

We've been seeing lizards quite a bit on our trip, and we started noticing a lot of tiny ones on the coast. Karen is particularly good at spotting them! I haven't been good at getting pictures of them though!

You might remember us seeing Water Dragons in Sydney a little over a month ago. Well, in Kempsey, behind the Moon River motel, there was a beautiful river - actually the Macleay River - teeming with life, and I was finding these awesome looking lizards everywhere I looked. (And I think they found me pretty interesting to look at, too!)

There were plenty of flowers to be seen along the shore as well, including a flowering pumpkin plant.

While I was standing there seeking out more dragons, I heard quite a large splash out towards the middle of the river. At first I thought it might be someone fishing (I had spoken to a fisherman a couple of minutes before about the spiny, poisonous fish he had caught) but then I noticed the rings from where something had splashed. Maybe a big fish had jumped? Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a fin! A shark? A dolphin!? I continued to watch, scanning the water for movement, and sure enough a dolphin emerged for a quick breath. It was too quick for me to catch a photo, but I captured a glimpse on video after a few tries!

It felt pretty spectacular to have seen so much in such a short time by the river. I had to take one last look back at the river before leaving.

Workout

Walking to the beach and through parks in Newcastle

Food

Breakfast: Banana, peanut butter and yoghourt

Lunch: Blue cheese burger

Dinner: Vegetable biryani, palak paneer



Jan 6 2016
Some stuff we've seen - Part 3
Posted by Chris

This is the third part of my series of blog posts recapping things we've discovered on our trip. See Part 2 here.

The first thing I'll mention is these trees that we first saw in New Zealand on Waiheke island, but we're seeing again along Australia's coast. The first one we saw, pictured here, was just massive and really stood out to us. They are Norfolk Island Pines, but it's not surprising that another common name for them is "living Christmas tree."

Karen mentioned in an earlier blog post about Magnetic Island that we saw a number of creatures there. We saw the koala there, and the wedge-tailed eagle I showed in Part 2. The island came alive again for us when we were finished our hike and lunch, but we didn't want to leave right away. We decided to take a walk around the shore for a bit to see the ocean views. We started down a path that looked like it would take us around, but ended up not going very far and ending at a breakwater, with a little closed off area with benches. The views were beautiful, so we spent some time looking out over the bay. Suddenly, I spotted some movement out of the corner of my eye, and discovered a Rock-wallaby no more than 10 metres from us among the rocks of the breakwater. We soon realized there were many more and one of them came right up to us, probably looking for food.

After spending some time with Willoughby the wallaby, we found a raised sidewalk along a road up over a cliff to continue along the shoreline. It had some pullouts to take a rest in, the first of which made a great viewing platform as well. We looked down at the cliffs below us and we saw a perched White-bellied Sea Eagle, which we had just read about earlier in the day.

We were just turning away when Karen looked back and exclaimed that the eagle had taken off. I was snapping pics when we realized it had caught something: a snake that was thrashing in its talons!

If you look closely at the first photo of the eagle, it looks like it already had its prey while it was perched. A few seconds later, another eagle soared past us.

After we had walked a fair distance along the shore, we decided to take a bus back to the ferry terminal (we had a day pass after all!) While waiting at the stop, we saw two interesting species of ant. The first I noticed looked weird because of the way it moved, which I can't really show with a picture. It was almost like it had a low framerate and network lag and moved along in quick jumps along the ground, sudden direction changes and strange pauses. The other species was the Green Tree Ant or Weaver Ant, which I have now seen many times along the coast.

There's only a week left in our trip, but hopefully I'll have enough content for a Part 4!

Workout

Walking around Newcastle and Birubi Beach

Food

Breakfast: Eggs and bacon

Lunch: Roasted pumpkin pizza

Dinner: Sub